Navigation Misses the Point of Search and Retrieval

March 18, 2013

How does one become a sheeple? One answer is, “Accept search outputs without critical thinking.”

I don’t want to get into a squabble with the thinkers at Nielsen Norman Group. I suggest you read “Converting Search into Navigation” and then reflect on the fact that this was the basic premise of Endeca and then almost every other search vendor on the planet since the late 1990s. The idea is that users prefer to click than type queries or, better yet, have the system just tell the user what he or she wants without having to do so much as make a click.

Humans want information and most humans don’t want to expend much, if any, effort getting “answers.” In the late 1970s, I worked on a Booz, Allen & Hamilton study which revealed that managers in that pre-Internet Dark Age got information by asking the first person encountered in the hall, a person whom an executive could get on the phone, or by flipping through the old school trade magazines which once flowed into in boxes.

A happy quack to

What’s different today? According to the write up, as I understand it, not too much. The article asserts:

Users are incredibly bad at finding and researching things on the web. A few years ago, I characterized users’ research skills as “incompetent,” and they’ve only gotten worse over time. “Pathetic” and “useless” are words that come to mind after this year’s user testing.

There you go. When top quality minds like those Booz, Allen & Hamilton tried to hire took the path of least resistance almost 50 years ago, is it a big surprise that people are clueless when it comes to finding information?

The point of the article is that people who make interfaces have to design for mediocre searchers. Mediocre? How about terrible, clueless, inept, or naive? The article says:

… you should redirect users from a normal SERP to a category page only when their query is unambiguous and exactly matches the category. A search for “3D TV” could go to the subcategory page for these products, but a search for “3D” should generate a regular SERP. (Costco does this correctly, including both 3D televisions and other products relevant to the query.) Until people begin to grasp the complexities of search and develop skills accordingly, businesses that take such extra steps to help users find what they need will improve customer success — and the bottom line.

My view is just a little bit different and not parental like the preceding paragraph.

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If Oracle RightNow Saved a Salesman

February 21, 2013

If only he had had access to Oracle’s RightNow, Willy Loman’s story might have ended differently. Is that what Greg Sirbu is trying to say when he evokes Arthur Miller’s 1949 opus Death of a Salesman? The literary allusion frames a fictional conversation in Perficient’s blog post, “When? Now? Yes! RightNow! You’ll Find it in the Cloud. . . .

Sirbu recasts Miller’s scene between the ill-fated Loman and his employer, Howard Wagner, as a modern-day conversation. This time, though, the Salesman is able to suggest their company (Widget, Inc.) adopt RightNow, Oracle‘s cloud-based customer experience platform. His pitch sounds a lot like Oracle’s promotional material, explaining the software’s features. The blog’s creator, Perficient, is eventually brought into the hypothetical dialogue:

“That sounds very complex Loman,” Howard said. “Our information technology staff is busy with many other projects, they may not have the time right now to bring what sounds like a great solution up-to-speed in a timely fashion.’

“Howard, we don’t need to worry about that,” Loman said. “Oracle has a solution implementation partner, Perficient, that can bring all the necessary consulting resources to bear to ensure that RightNow is structured just the way we need it built for our business.”

“Sounds like we need to explore RightNow, right now!” Wagner said.

Of course he did. Such a turn of events would have ruined Miller’s play, but that’s beside the point, I suppose. It is an interesting tactic; will enough readers recognize the name “Willy Loman” to make this an effective device?

Formed in 1998, Perficient offers their clients a competitive edge with a variety of Internet-based business technologies. With offices around the world, the company maintains its headquarters in Saint Louis, Missouri.

Cynthia Murrell, February 21, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Complex Facebook Analytics Tool Available from Wolfram Alpha

January 22, 2013

Wolfram Alpha is famous for its knowledgeable tools and widgets that involve highly complex algorithms and computations. However, many may be surprised to hear about the Facebook analytics tool which is available from the systematic knowledge engine. The article “Use Wolfram Alpha to Dig Up Cool Statistics About Your Facebook Account [Weekly Facebook Tips]” on MakeUseOf tells readers how to get detailed facebook information about their account.

The article shares:

“With the Wolfram Alpha Facebook analytics tool, you can find out a huge amount of information about your Facebook account. It’s quite fun to see which of your posts or photos are the most popular, who your top commenters are, who is sharing your posts the most and more interesting tidbits. Plus, it’s easy to use this tool and completely free. Why not have a go?”

I decided to have a go with the Facebook tool, and was overwhelmed with the amount of detailed information I was provided. Wolfram Alpha told me everything from the moon phase at the time of my birth to statistical data about the top contributors on my page. Of course, all of this information is readily available to anyone with access to my page. This tool is fun, but may encourage others to consider resetting the privacy settings on their accounts.

Andrea Hayden, January 22, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Beyond Search

Updates On Customer Experience Management

January 21, 2013

Pulling from Customer Think, the article “Predictions For Customer Experience Management In 2013” discusses how the customer experience management have made great strides in the past three years. CEM used to solely focus on information fathering and finding insights in customer data (sounds like Big Data, right?). CEM now has more technology and methods at its fingertips to connect CEM users to its customers for real experiences. Two thousand thirteen will bring even more changes and the article predicts that solicited and social feedback will merge. CEM users must figure out how to take it, advantage of the two and possibly build a platform to manage it. Also immediate and real time feedback through mobile devices will be worth their weight in gold to gain consumer insights.

Here is the biggest change:

“Action at the Frontline Will Become Standard: While first-generation CEM software focused on capturing feedback, today’s CEM solutions go beyond understanding the customer experience. Now enterprises want CEM platforms that allow the frontline to connect feedback to action. In 2013, organizations will measure their CEM programs not just on response rates, but also on the closed loop and the business impact of closing the loop. The CEM solution of 2013 will directly (and not through complicated integration and years of IT projects) trigger, capture, and manage the action associated with feedback all the way to the frontline. CEOs need to make it their company’s mission to focus on the customer and even create a culture and the appropriate business measures and incentives to make it happen. But the people, who directly impact the customer’s experience, each and every day, are frontline employees. In 2013, the actions and influence of the frontline will grow, and consumers will feel the benefits.”

CEM makes sense when it comes to clothing, personal products, sport-related products, technology, etc., but what does it mean for software? Cheaper customer support systems? The article, applies more to physical products than digital.

Whitney Grace, January 21, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Beyond Search

Savanna Provides Model Enabled and User Generated Analysis

January 7, 2013

A powerful new suit of analytical tools has been released that allows for user-generated, model-enabled analysis. Savanna by Thetus places discoveries in meaningful context and is open and flexible, according to the product website. An article on SYS-CON Media, “Thetus Savanna: Powerful but Easy to Learn Analytic Tools,” describes the uses and capabilities of the new technology.

We learn the best ways to learn how to apply Savanna:

“It is very capable, and surprisingly easy to learn. This means once an enterprise has installed and configured Savanna very little (or no) training is required before the workforce can apply it. Organizations will definitely want to think through the best uses of Savanna, but even that is not hard. I recommend doing that two ways:  1) Watch some of the overview demos of Savanna on Youtube and 2) Watch the overview I built below that walks you through how I used it […]”

We like the fact that the product allows users to perform analysis and author their findings in one place, as well as the ability to fit into existing infrastructures. Some good videos are available that overview the suite and are fairly approachable, including the one posted at the mentioned article:

Andrea Hayden, January 07, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

SLI Systems Helps Stanfords Increase Conversion

November 15, 2012

SLI Systems has generated a conversion improvement, we learn from their press release, “Stanfords Creates 3.5X Improvement in Conversion Rate and 3X Higher Per-Visit Value with SLI Systems Site Search.” The write up tells us:

“Stanfords, the UK’s leading specialist retailer of maps, travel books, and travel accessories, is seeing a conversion rate for site search users that is 3.5 times the rate for non-site search users after implementing Learning Search from SLI Systems. In addition, per-visit value for visitors who use site search is three times higher than per-visit values for visitors who don’t use search. Stanfords chose SLI’s customizable refinements and learning-based approach to replace the site search built into its e-commerce platform from Exact Abacus.”

Interesting metric. Could there be something about users who don’t use site search that predisposes them to not buy?

Stanfords‘ e-commerce manager Joanna Lawton explained that the recent expansion into travel-related products prompted the move. She is happy with the increased relevance of her company’s results pages, as well as with the system’s intuitive user tools, she said.

SLI Systems supplies tools for site search, navigation, merchandising, and search engine optimization. They boast that their technology ‘learns’ from the behavior of visitors over time, resulting in more relevant results. The privately held company has offices in the US, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

Cynthia Murrell, November 15, 2012

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Study Proves Students Not Enthused About Digital Classrooms

October 17, 2012

Numerous opportunities exist online to assist in the development of education, such as social networking, blogs, and even simple email. However, according to an article I spotted on titled “Study Reveals Disparity Between Students’ and Professors’ Perceptions of the Digital Classroom,” the integration of education and information and communication tools (ICTs) is not exactly welcome by many students. A recent study from Concordia University shows that students actually prefer an engaging lecture to some wired supplement.

The article elaborates on the results:

“Instructors were more fluent with the use of emails than with social media, while the opposite was true for students.

‘Our analysis showed that teachers think that their students feel more positive about their classroom learning experience if there are more interactive, discussion-oriented activities. In reality, engaging and stimulating lectures, regardless of how technologies are used, are what really predict students’ appreciation of a given university course,” explains [Magda Fusaro from UQAM’s Department of Management and Technology.]”

The countless possibilities that exist online to expand learning and teaching methods could prove to be a mad rush to the Web for many learning establishments as they attempt to explore the options. However, if this study is accurate, students may not be willing to go along on the ride. It appears online information and services may not be able to fill student expectations.

Andrea Hayden, October 17, 2012

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Connotate Adds PDF Extraction Function

October 12, 2012

PDF files often pose challenges for those extracting data from these types of documents, but Connotate is announcing added capabilities that will make this process easier for users. According to the article “Connotate Expands Automation Solution to Include Precise PDF Extraction” on Market Watch, the provider of automated data solutions is expanding capabilities that will allow data extraction from unstructured flat-file documents and transform them into higher-value structured content.

The article informs us about the changes at the company and the need for the technology in the market:

“‘In listening to our customer base, we heard very clearly the need for automated collection and transformation of more types of data — and PDF extraction was at the top of the list,’ said Isai Shenker, vice president of product management for Connotate. ‘We are delighted to offer a proven solution to meet this need by working with our partner, Khemeia Technologies.’”

This PDF extraction function will benefit numerous industries, as these documents are used often in financial reporting, legal services, publishing, and government documentation. We applaud Connotate in the unique and highly demanded technology, which will enable organizations to process higher volumes of data, likely reducing costs and generating revenue.

Andrea Hayden, October 12, 2012

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

New App Allows Users to Search Without Effort

October 3, 2012

CNET News has the latest news on an iPad search app, “MindMeld Voice and Video App Instantly Anticipates Your Needs.”  Expect Labs created the new MindMeld app (not the Vulcan mind trick from Star Trek), but it acts in a similar manner.  Using only vocal conversation MindMeld provides instant contextual information related to the speakers’ conversation.  For instance, if two Star Trek fans were discussing if Kirk or Picard was the better captain, MindMeld would have several windows with data about the captains pop up
MindMeld’s purpose is simple:

“The idea here, Tuttle said, is that MindMeld is at the forefront of the kind of technology that will surround us everywhere in a few years and that will be always on and constantly paying attention in order to serve up information when we want it, or possibly even before we know we want it.”

MindMeld must rely on user input for the time being, but the goal is that during a video call users will not have to type anything into the app.  It will provide information based on what users talk about and when they tap the screen looking for information.  Expect Labs has the lead here, but vocal software has always presented problems.  MindMeld will need to be tested for relevancy and accuracy as well.  Machines cannot read minds yet.

Whitney Grace, October 03, 2012

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Our Mobile Phone Wonderland

August 25, 2012

Here is where hype and over-the-top marketing collide with reality. Cell Phone Digest reports that “Pew Research Reviews Mobile Phone Problems.” Reporting on a recent survey from the Pew Research Center, the article states:

“Even though mobile technology often simplifies the completion of everyday tasks, cell phone owners can also encounter technical glitches and unwanted intrusions on their phones. In an April 2012 survey, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project assessed the prevalence of four problems that cell owners might face.”

The four problems: dropped calls (72% experienced them), unwanted sales calls (68%), spam texts (69% of texting users), and slow download speeds (77% of those who go online with their phones). The survey found that smartphone users experienced these problems more than those with phones of average intelligence.

The write up notes that, though the study was not structured to measure illegal cell phone marketing, the amounts found imply a lot of that is going around. The article reminds us to look into the National Do Not Call Registry if we wish to reduce the number of marketing calls and texts we receive.

Researchers suspect that our levels of dissatisfaction are the result of technology that has not been able to keep up with our expectations. Could less-than-completely-honest advertising have anything to do with that? Nah, that can’t be it.

Cynthia Murrell, August 25, 2012

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

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